Interview by Darya Yegorina
Camille Donegan is a Virtual Reality consultant and content producer with 15 year parallel careers in both technology and the arts (theatre, film, radio). Since discovering Virtual Reality in Jan 2015, and realising the potential for this immersive medium, she has been researching and developing concepts for how Virtual Reality, and Augmented Reality, can impact our experiences at work and at play. Camille is General Manager and Producer at Virtual Reality Ireland as well as co-founder of a VR Training tool start-up which enables Scaling of Expertise consistently across an organisation. Current projects at Virtual Reality Ireland include a Heritage AR app and a VR Meditation app. Camille runs the VR Community Ireland where artists, technologists, psychologists, academics and VR enthusiasts meet up to explore the new storytelling possibilities presented by VR and AR.
Camille, tell us a bit about your projects in VR so far.
I have been obsessed with VR for over 3.5 years since first experiencing it at a film technology conference. My first hit (!) was called Dog House and it was a first person perspective VR film, where you could choose what character you would like to be at an awkward family dinner setting. I was absolutely transported into my characters body and could feel what he was feeling! It was a eureka moment for me and shortly afterwards I took 6 months out to focus and write about all the VR concepts I had swirling around my head.
It has taken a while to put them into practice as I needed to create the right partners and network as well as upskill. Now I have to pinch myself, 3 of the ideas I had then are currently in production. One is a VR training tool, a partnership with Adaptas Training. The concept is called Scale the Expert and with it, an organisation can scale the skills, competencies and behaviours of someone on the team who ‘owns it’. We also create Perspectives VR solutions where you can experience a first-person-perspective of multiple characters at the same meeting or in the same business scenario. These are both bespoke services
As General Manager and Producer at Virtual Reality Ireland, we are currently working on 2 projects that are linked to ideas I had during my ‘dreamtime’. We are partnering with a mindfulness coach to create a VR meditation app and also producing a heritage AR app that will enable scaling of Living History at heritage sites. Life is super exciting right now!
When did all start and do you have other members in your team?
Very soon after my first VR hit, I left my financial services IT job and moved into the creative media sector. The company I worked with for nearly 2 years did some AR and VR but it was a minor part of their business. I was eager to work with these mediums every day and 7 months ago got my dream job with Virtual Reality Ireland. We have a team of developers, programmers and film-makers as well as all the latest VR equipment – cameras and headsets.
How long did it take you to be where you are now?
3.5 years, or maybe all my life. I have no doubt that I was put on this planet to work with the medium and background with parallel careers in the arts and tech was the perfect forerunner!
What was the biggest obstacle?
Taking a significant reduction in salary from my well paid financial services job was difficult but it has led to a more streamlined existence.
It was also a challenge to see the potential so early but have no market, no industry, no VR jobs or clients willing to take the risk. That was when I set up the VR Community Ireland meetup, so people who saw the potential could meet up and talk about it. It was kind of like an AA for VR addicts 😉It feels as though the time for these mediums has arrived now and I’m very glad to be here at the beginning alongside the talented Irish community of VR and AR creators, many of whom are friends from the early meetup days.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
I love speaking at events, it gives me such a buzz to share my passion. So, any time I speak at an event is a highlight. I’ve recently completed the Female High Fliers programme at DCU academy where myself and Dr. Celine Mullins received ‘Most Investment Potential’ award for our final pitch.
And on a personal achievement, I recently qualified as a Qi Gong instructor after 2 years of training.
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in? How about being a female founder / entrepreneur?
As AR and VR are emerging technologies in a new market sector, it can be a real rollercoaster. There are extreme ups and downs. One day it seems like Ireland (and the world) is embracing these mediums and the next it isn’t. Available budgets for these new mediums seems to be undefined and due to the ‘race to the bottom’ that happened with video, it seems to be hindering expectations regarding budgets.
I love being a female entrepreneur. The support we give one another as females is extraordinary. The female high fliers was like a tribe of female warriors who all had, and still have, each other’s backs. We are all on a WhatsApp group and share each others highs and lows. I haven’t found any challenges specific to my gender as an entrepreneur yet, and hopefully I won’t.
Is #WomenInTech movement important to you and if yes, why?
Sort-of! I’ve worked in IT all my adult life and was always the girl amongst the techie boys which I never minded. I think women should work at whatever field they want to work in, but not to be put off by the tech sector because it is male dominated. And of course we should receive the same pay for the same job, that’s just stating the obvious.
In the VR scene globally there is a real push for female storytellers and makers for this new medium. I see my part in that movement to share my passion, as I do with events, demos and workshops and tell people how they can get into it if they are interested.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs out there?
Find your tribe. The day I walked into the Digital Biscuit conference, a film and technology conference where I first tried VR, I remember thinking ‘wow these people all kind of look and dress like me’! It was refreshing as I’d always felt like the outsider in the bank (who was an actor and theatre producer on the side) and in the arts (the only actor I knew with a house and a car)!
What will be the key trends in the wearable tech industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
I can’t wait to see where the AR glasses revolution will lead us. I really look forward to rolling out solutions via glasses with a great field of view that offers a seamless experience. It upsets me that we have to use phones or tablets to experience AR. I try to hide the tech where I can, like for our heritage app the tablet will be disguised as a magic mirror through which you can see the ghost characters.
Who are your 3 inspirational women in wearable tech?
I have to admit I know very few women in wearable tech but look forward to meeting many more! I saw Anouk Wipprecht (http://www.anoukwipprecht.nl/) speak at a FITC about her spider dress and was super inspired by that (I still talk about it).
I love watching WOW (Words of Wisdom) talks on YouTube where I have seen fantastic tech meets art projects from many inspirational women including: Elena Corchero (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zsiT5MMhLnU), Genevieve Smith-Nunes (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXpEcgxmoXk) and Rebecca Fiebrink (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDVSs2UxHTg).
LinkedIn: Camille Donegan
This interview was conducted by Darya Yegorina, Women of Wearables Ambassador in Dublin, Ireland. She is a serial entrepreneur, CEO of CleverBooks and other ventures in multiple industries. Darya’s current focus is on emerging technologies for education where she has the mission to deliver the most innovative Augmented Reality technology to schools around the world and to create equal access to technology for kids globally. Darya is called the Innovator by Irish Times, Irish Tech News and Examiner in 2017, was featured in Forbes and selected as one of young Irish best entrepreneurs in 2016. Connect with Darya on LinkedIn: Darya Yegorina or follow her on Twitter: Darya Yegorina